'90s One-Hit Wonders: Right Time, Right Place

Every time the beat drops, the first few bars reverberate through the speakers and into your ears. Instantly recognizable — whether you love the music or hate it — everyone knows it -- the joy and the curse of the one-hit wonder.

Within a few months the song has fallen off the charts and a follow-up single doesn't evoke the same popularity as its predecessor.

Soon the artist's name may slip your mind, and even the tune's title. But that doesn't stop a bevy of songs from every genre competing every year for the one-hit wonder title.

Determining what makes a hit popular may be debatable, but join us for our look back at some of the most popular tunes of the 1990s.

"The '90s made the '80s look like the '60s," said Alex Blagg, Bestweekever.tv managing editor. "In the '80s, the fashion and the music was pretty absurd, but somehow today, looking back, the '90s are even harder to understand."

See if you don't find yourself reminiscing -- if only briefly -- about these singular hits.

Lou Bega, 'Mambo No. 5'

Amid Y2K scares, millennium countdowns and a Latin music invasion, Lou Bega skirted just under the year's end in 1999 to ensure his place in one-hit wonderdom.

"Mambo No. 5," which sampled a 1952 instrumental tune, counted down all his female exploits. The chorus lists all the women in his love life.

"It's actually a pretty raunchy song," said Billboard senior editor Chucky Eddy. "They actually changed the name when it became a radio Disney hit."

The song — which never did say whether Monica, Angela, Pamela, Rita, Tina, Mary, Sandra or Jessica ever met one another — was not of Latin origin, but benefited from the popularity of Hispanic artists at the time.

"There's been a tradition of the central European songs that incorporate a Latin rhythm," Eddy said. "I always thought it was pretty cool that a guy from Germany could pull that off."

Right Said Fred, 'I'm Too Sexy'

From muscle-bound gym rats to tiny tots, it seemed everyone proclaimed their sexiness following Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy." It mocked models, who dominated magazines and popular culture when the song was released in 1992.

And while the group had the sound of an industrial Eastern European band, it was actually British.

"They presented themselves as kind of sprockets," Eddy said.

He added that the duo recalls other couplings, like Wham and the Pet Shop Boys, in which listeners try to figure out just what exactly the second guy in the duo does.

Among the things the duo was too sexy for: their car, their cat and their shirts. By the tune's end, the singers were too sexy for the song. They also may have been too sexy for a follow-up hit.

Kris Kross, 'Jump'

If the word "tween" had been coined in 1992, the song "Jump" and its backward-pants-wearing mini-rappers Kriss Kross would have led the set.

"They were like the Jackson Five of their year," Eddy said.

But the 13-years-olds had more than age on their side. According to Eddy, it's difficult for a song about jumping not to be popular.

"There is a whole history of songs about jumping," he said. Destiny's Child, House of Pain and the Pointer Sisters are just a few of the acts who had musical success with jump-themed jingles.

"The music has to jump," Eddy said. "It's onomatopoeia."

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...